Sell Your Ideas the Steve Jobs Way by Carmine Gallo (Transcript)

In this talk at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Carmine Gallo discusses his ‘New Rules of Persuasive Presentations’ which is how to sell your ideas effectively, just as Steve Jobs did…


Carmine Gallo 

Good afternoon. Thank you, thanks for inviting me.

Today I want to help all of you sell your ideas the Steve Jobs way. I’d like to call this the New Rules of Persuasive Presentations. Because I think too, a lot of you, these techniques will be new, or at least maybe it’s a new way of looking at an old problem, which is how do we sell our ideas effectively?

As graduate students at Stanford, you all have ideas to share. You have ideas for new products, new businesses, new methods, new ways of doing things, ideas that are going to change the world. Some people are better than others at telling their story. Steve Jobs, for example, is an extraordinary storyteller.

He’s so exceptional, in fact, I wrote an entire book on him. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.

Now this book I am proud to say has become an international bestseller. And companies around the world, companies that recruit from Stanford are using some of these techniques to completely transform the way they communicate the vision behind their companies.

How many of you were here when Alan Mullaly spoke, CEO Ford, last week? Alan called me personally last year, called me on my cell phone, I was actually in the gym at the time on my treadmill. Kind of embarrassing, I’m running out thinking, why is this guy calling from Detroit?

And he said, this is Alan Mullaly from Ford, just want to know, I read this cover to cover, it’s really helped a lot. So that’s the kind of reaction I’m getting from people.

But it’s not just about Steve Jobs, I’m going to give you ideas from many, many other communicators who consciously or not applied the very same techniques when they’re pitching their companies or pitching their products.

But let’s begin with a premise, I hope we can all agree with? A person can have the greatest idea in the world, but if that person cannot convince enough other people it doesn’t matter. It’s always mattered to Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs always thinks differently about communicating the vision behind Apple. Now what can the rest of us learn? I learned quite a bit, techniques that I now offer my clients. And my clients touch your life every single day. From the computers you buy, to the electronic gadgets you use, to the foods you eat, to the medical devices that keep you healthy. To the cars you drive, to the gas that goes into those cars, and the energy that keeps America moving forward.

My clients are in the news every day. They improve your life every day, and they are using these techniques, and some of them here, especially which is a big client of mine.

Recruits directly from Stanford, and they are using these techniques. So I hope that you are a receptive audience. I want to teach you some of the techniques that we use with high level executives. Okay?

Shall I go through them? The ones that apply to you specifically, the ones that you can adopt today. For your very next presentation. I’m going to start with the most important one.


Passion is everything. You cannot inspire unless you’re inspired yourself. And for Steve Jobs, passion plays a very, very important role at Apple.

In 1997, Steve Jobs returned to Apple after a 12 year absence. Apple was very close to bankruptcy at the time. Steve Jobs held an informal staff meeting. I’m going to show you a clip from that meeting. It’s informal and you can tell because he’s wearing shorts. When he really wants to dress up he’ll wear blue jeans and running shoes.

So informal staff meeting, but listen to the role passion would play in the revitalizing the Apple brand.

….”Marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world, it’s a very noisy world. And we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. And so we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us. Our customers want to know who is Apple and what is it that we stand for? Where do we get influence? And what, what about us. Isn’t making boxes for people to get their jobs done, although we do that well, we do that better than almost anybody in some cases. But Apple is about something more than that. Apple, at the core, its core value, is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.” – Steve Jobs to Apple employees, 1997

People with passion can change the world for the better. This man certainly believes that.

Richard Tait was a client of mine about five years ago. Classic American Entrepreneur. Sketches an idea, on the back of an airplane napkin during a cross-country flight. An idea for a board game, in which everyone could excel, in one area or another. Some people are better at trivia, art, culture, music.

What game did he build? Cranium. What – Cranium headquarters? And you are here with a wave of fun, and enthusiasm, and engagement. The likes of which I have rarely seen in corporate America. But again you need to understand that it starts from the leader, it starts from the entrepreneur whose vision it was to build that company.

But what is Richard Tait passionate about? Passion is contagious by the way. He is passionate not so much about building board games, he’s passionate about building self-esteem. And it comes across in every conversation you have with him. And in every television interview. Especially when he’s asked a question like, where do great ideas come from? I, I can feel these ideas. You just know when you’re on to something. And just don’t take no for an answer.

You’ve just got to keep pushing, you know, resilience and perseverance. Those are the key characteristics of an entrepreneur. They can feel the idea and just don’t take no for an answer. We — potentially when we got sacked at first, and they said just don’t leave your day jobs you know you’re crazy. Everyone was telling it as we were crazy. I even called up my own dad and I said to him I was going to leave Microsoft and start a games company and he said to me, what should I tell my friends? This is how I followed my heart.

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And to this day you know, I have to say to anyone is, is preserver and even feel the idea. You see it, you know it. Yeah, you’ve got your friends and you worry about your friends, you know when you get that look the test, is this a good idea or not. And then you know you’re on to something.

Well as so you said I’m going to put you in one of the greatest hits big ideas, because everything you say is a — form of success.

To the other people, don’t take no, follow your track, go for it. I mean you just, you just get, you’re the embodiment. I love it, love it.

One thing I’ve learned from this show which I saw, I was watching this show every other day, you guys were talking about customers. People call Craniacs. And I’ve never forgotten that our customers are our sales force. We’ve sold a million games with no advertising. All by our customers talking about our products, sharing those experiences.

By the way we sold a million games with no advertising. Our customers are our best sales force.

Did you see the reaction of the host? Passion is contagious. When I first worked with, for Richard Tait, a colleague of mine said that within five minutes you’re going to want to work at Cranium. Now, I didn’t go to work for Cranium, but I understand, I understand.

When I interviewed Suze Orman, who is one of the world’s great financial planners, I asked her point blank, I said: What makes you such an extraordinary communicator? She said, “Because I learned to appeal to somebody’s heart before their brain”. I understand what she’s saying, you need to make emotional connections with people. You need to share what you’re passionate about. She’s not passionate about mutual funds. Suze Orman is passionate about avoiding the crushing financial debt that caused so much pain for her and her family as she was growing up.

What does Starbucks sell? What do they sell? Coffee. So why is it that when I interviewed Howard Shultz for a Business Week article and a book about three years ago, he rarely mentioned the word coffee? I thought he was selling coffee. Because that’s not what he is selling, and he was very adamant about it. They are selling a workplace that treats people with dignity and respect. Happy customers or happy employees equal happy customers, what a formula. It works for Starbucks but he rarely mentioned the word coffee and I said, how it, why are you talking about coffee, that’s what you sell. He said, well sure I like coffee. But that’s not what my business stands for.

So, you need to ask yourselves, what am I passionate about. And It’s not the obvious. Howard Schultz is not passionate about coffee. Suze Orman is not selling mutual funds. Richard Tait is not selling board games. And Steve Jobs is not selling computers. He’s selling tools to help you unleash your personal creativity. There’s a big difference.

But that’s the very first question you need to ask yourself, when you’re creating the message behind your product, or company, or service. What is it that I’m truly passionate about?

Now let’s dig into real techniques that you can use today for your very next presentation. How many of you are on Twitter? My Twitter handle is — if you like to follow me, I’d like to continue this conversation with you.

How many of characters does Twitter allow? 140. I think that’s a great exercise. If you cannot explain what you do in 140 characters, go back to the drawing board. It’s important, because your brain craves meaning before details.

A neuroscientist at the University of Washington, John Medina, taught me this. He said, when a primitive man ran into a tiger, he did not ask how many teeth does the tiger have? He asked, will it eat me? Should I run?

Big picture before details

This is the way your brain wants to process information. What’s wrong with this slide? Typical slide, right? This was delivered by a Morgan Stanley analyst at a technology conference. She had about twenty minutes, and she wanted to deliver 8 big ideas, 8 themes. That’s too much information.

Where’s the big picture before the details? These actually support a broader theme. A couple of journalists who were in the room at the time wrote about it much more simply, but they focused on the big picture. One of the headlines was, the mobile internet is growing faster than you’ve ever imagined.

Now imagine if she had come out to say, the mobile internet is growing faster than you’ve ever imagined. And I’m going to tell you, why? What’s more interesting, this slide which I created in two minutes or this one?

Big picture, before details. Steve Jobs does this all the time. When he introduced the MacBook Air, this could have been a very typical slide. The average communicator would have created the slide like this. Today, we are very excited to introduce a thin, lightweight notebook computer. It has a 13 inch wide screen display, backlit keyboard, Intel Processor.

What’s the problem here? Too much information.

What’s the big picture? In a sentence, it’s the world’s thinnest notebook. Isn’t that much more interesting and easier for you to process than all of the details first. It’s the world’s thinnest notebook. That’s the way Steve Jobs framed it.

What do you notice about the slide? Simple, visual, and when he delivers the headline. The one thing that he wants you to remember, that’s all he has on the slide. He does this all the time. In every presentation.

What’s the iPad? The iPad is our most advanced technology. In a magical and revolutionary device. That was his second slide when he introduced the iPad. Because that’s all he wants you to know right now, before getting into the details.

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I did notice at an unbelievable price, they stopped using that. This is the only time he actually used that. Maybe people started thinking to themselves, 800 dollars. That’s, that’s not unbelievable, unbelievably high maybe. But it’s interesting.

That was the last time I saw it on that one slide. Again, Apple does this all the time.

A few months ago when they introduced The Beatles on iTunes, go to the website what did you see? The Beatles, now on iTunes. How many of you would have the courage at your companies. To effectively declutter your website, remove everything else, except the one thing you want people to get across. The one thing you want people to remember.

Again, the Apple website, they do this all the time. It takes courage to be simple. It takes courage to communicate simply. If you cannot communicate what you do in ten words or less, a short sentence, or say, 140 characters, go back to the drawing board. Once you give me the big picture, as an audience member, I need to understand the problem that you’re trying to solve.

Introducing the Antagonist

I call this introducing the antagonist. Because every great story, and a presentation is a story, every great story requires a hero, and a villain. So think of your presentation the same way.

In 1984, when Steve Jobs first introduced Macintosh. Macintosh obviously, the Mac was the hero. IBM was the villain. At least in the Steve Jobs narrative. So he actually crafted the story. IBM would play the villain part of the role. Mac would come in to save the day. IBM was a mainframe computer, at the time. Mainframe computer maker, just getting in the personal computers for the first time. And Steve Jobs created this, this presentation of messaging around, Apple would be the only one to stand in, in IBM’s way and make the world safer, us creative people in the world. It was, it was very dramatic stuff, but he actually crafted the narrative.

But more often than not, the enemy in a Steve Jobs presentation is not a competitor, or one competitor, it’s, could be a category of problems in need of a solution. So, when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, he didn’t just point to one villain, but a problem among all the villains, in need of a solution. Watch as he outlines the problem, and offers a solution, all in two minutes.

Why do we revolutionary user interface? I mean. Here is four smartphones. Right, the Moto Q, Blackberry Palm Treo, Nokia E62. The usual suspects. And, what’s wrong with their user interface? Well, the problem with them is really sort of in the bottom 40 there. It’s this stuff right here. They all have these keyboards, they’re there whether or not you need them to be there. And they all have these control buttons that are fixed in plastic and are the same for every application.

Well, every application wants a slightly different user interface, a slightly optimized set of buttons, just for it. And what happens if you think of a great idea six months from now? You can’t run around and add a button to these things. They’re already shipped.

So, what do you do? It doesn’t work because the buttons and controls can’t change. They can’t change for each application, and they can’t change down the road if you think of another great idea you want to add to this product.

Well, how do you solve this? Hm, it turns out, we have solved it. We solved it in computers twenty years ago. We saw that the big Mac screen they could display anything we want. Put any user interface up. And a pointing device. We solved it with the mouse. We solved this problem, so how are we going to take this to a mobile device? What we’re going to do is get rid of all these buttons. We’ll just make a giant screen. A giant screen. Now, how are we going to communicate with this? We don’t want to carry it around a mouse, right? So what are we going to do? A stylus, right? No. Who wants a stylus? You have to hit ’em and put ’em away, and you lose them, yuck!

Nobody wants a stylus, so let’s not use a stylus. We’re going to use the best pointing device in the world, we’re going to use the pointing device that we’re all born with, with one tab, we’re going to use our fingers. We’re going to touch this with our fingers. And, we have invented a new technology called multi-touch which is phenomenal, it works like magic. You don’t need a stylus. t’s far more accurate than any touch display that’s ever been shipped. It ignores unintended touches, it’s super smart, you can do multi finger gestures on it. And boy, have we patented it! – Steve Jobs at the introduction of iPhone (2007)


All right. I’m glad it stopped there. Take a view of that slide. We’re going to get back to something like that.

What do you notice about those slides, by the way? Simple, visual. Do you notice what he did? He did three things. He informed, he educated, and he had fun at the same time. Information. Education, and entertainment. All in two minutes. I find that quite extraordinary. Very few communicators have that skill. But you need to begin by asking yourself, what problem do I solve? What problem do I solve? What’s the villain here? And then you can offer the solution. Enter the hero. The solution better sell a benefit, though.

Sell a Benefit

What’s the benefit behind it? People want to know, what’s in it for me? I learned this in journalism 101. I went to UCLA. Went to Northwestern to study journalism, then I went to CNN and some other media outlets after that. But I learned this my first day of journalism school. What’s in it for me? Why do I care?

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